Monday, May 7, 2012

More pictures added Saturday, May 12th

There are now over 400 pictures with captions in chronological order. As I continue to gather up more pictures from the rest of the team, I will replace any of mine as better pictures from the others appear. Click on the link below to go to the pictures.  The set now consists of pictures from myself, Lupe, Kay and new addtions as of today from Justin including some great macro flower and lizard shots as well as an outstanding panorama of the Great Rift Valley. Enjoy!

Travel home

I am having a hot cup of black coffee in Heathrow Airport as this is being written. Our Saturday excursion to the Lake Nakuru wild game park was probably the most eventful daytrip I have been involved with, even though this is now my seventh mission trip in a row since getting involved with the Vision Kenya Project. We had an early breakfast and were on the road before 6:30am. When we got to the Great Rift Valley overlooks, the valley was still fogged in and while it was beautiful, it was not worth the stop at the time. We did stop for a few minutes and took some good photos further on up the road across the valley. I put my camera into panorama mode and am hoping to end up with a spectacular result once I can work some magic on my computer. As we got to within about 20km of the town of Nakuru, the matatu began making a loud racket and shook like we had blown a tire. We pulled off to the side of the road and the tires were fine. Our driver, Caius, crawled under the van and saw that there were some loose connections in the drivetrain. We let the van cool down and then limped into town and went to a small repair facility that his transport company had used previously. In less than half an hour, they had done a temporary fix that included some wrenching and pumping fluid into the transmission. We were able to continue with our safari while the repair shop procured needed replacement parts. We saw white and black rhinos, gazelles, chevrons, impalas (does this sound like a Chevy commercial or what?), many species of birds, baboons, monkeys and we concluded the trip with an up close and personal look at an obviously injured large female lion resting on the side of the road. We had to quickly close the windows on that side of the van for safety sake. We shortened the safari a little bit to allow time for finishing the vehicle repair, which occurred while we were in a nearby souvenir stand. It actually worked out well, because Pastor Preece was able to get his long sought after Masai warrior club and several others in the group got some neat trinkets. I have a strong suspicion that club will make an appearance in at least one sermon and will be a welcome new addition to Pastor's office decor. Our trip back to Nairobi was uneventful and we did manage to stop for a few minutes at the scenic overlook we had skipped in the morning. Fairly aggressive souvenir vendors came out of the woodwork hawking their wares and more than one of us succumbed to temptation. We arrived at our Nairobi lodgings about an hour and a half later than planned, but we still had time for showers and some pizza before we had to load up our buses prior to heading to the airport. We left for the airport around 6pm rather than our usual 7pm due to concerns about heavy traffic that had dogged us all week with the abundant rains. It's a good thing that we did, since our trip took over two hours, lots of rain and involved several shortcuts I had not seen before. Our drivers are amazing, turning full sized buses around in areas where I couldn't do a three point turnabout with my pickup truck. 

Our time at Heathrow went very smoothly this morning, with the exception of a few of us being required to check our carry ons to make more room due to a nearly full flight back to the U.S. I escaped this fate and I'm glad I did, since I like to have my tablet computer, camera and other small electronics in my possession at all times. We are now traveling over the Atlantic Ocean west of Ireland at 35,000 feet speeding along at 547mph. At this point, it looks as if we'll arrive in Houston right on time at 2:45pm. I'll try to get a bit of rest between now and touchdown, since my body is adjusted to an 8 hour time difference. By the time we clear Customs and Immigration checks, it'll be 4pm, but my body will be telling me that it's midnight in Nairobi with a drive home to Austin still ahead of Lupe and myself. As usual, we'll be wrestling more than 50 footlockers and assorted personal items through several checkpoints as a large group, so anything is possible. More to follow after we get home. Thanks be to God for travel mercies and the way He has used each of us in His service!

Friday, our final day of the clinic

Last night we got in a little late for dinner and all retired to our rooms for a free night to catch up on some rest. I went to bed about 10pm, with all of my electronics plugged in and recharging. I woke up briefly around 11pm and realized that there had been a power failure. We have had lots of rain, lightning and thunder this trip, and so I thought the outage might last from a few minutes to an hour. Wrong! It was still out when I got up around 5:30am, so I got dressed and headed over to the cafeteria, only to find a surprise. There in a candle lit kitchen stood Lupe preparing breakfast for the gang! He outdid himself this time. Eggs he had ordered the night before had not arrived, but he was able to patch together some freshly made tortillas, and some potatoes and salsa to form breakfast tacos. We all appreciate him so much. I told Pastor Kevin that I couldn't stop him from being Lupe if I wanted to and I don't want to. What a great friend he is!

We are now nearing the end of our mission trip. We had a good final day and saw 403 people in the clinic. Our total for the week was 1944 people that actually registered for and entered the clinic. We always have a larger number at the gate, since not all people come to the clinic after our evangelism efforts. They could be waiting for a friend or relative, etc. While we are in a neighborhood where the population includes a significant number of Muslims, there were really no confrontations, but a few decided not to come into the evangelism tents as a prerequisite for treatment. Pastor Kevin left a little before 4pm and then I became the short term team leader just in time to box everything up and shut down the clinic. That all went very smoothly. We had a nice devotion led by Bishop Bakari which included letting team members from each side give testimonies as to what they had observed during the week. All church and Redeemer team members were very much in agreement that these clinics are a blessing to the church and to the surrounding area and that the week had been one of joy as we worked together. We then had chosen people from the church and our team make a final testimony. Sally, who was in charge of our registration process gave a beautiful witness as to how much the clinic helped the church and the community. Pastor Preece had a powerful talk on what he had observed of the African mind, African music and on the might of the African people. He has been a real blessing to everyone involved this week, including Bishop Bakari who absolutely loves his preaching. The congregation sang a blessing song over each of the Redeemer team members by name that was very special, with hardly a dry eye in the sanctuary. Pastor Bakari insisted that we once again sing the Doxology for him and it was so well received that the congregation insisted on a second time around. I will never think of the Doxology the same way again when I sing it. It was powerful, beautiful and the acoustics of the church made it all the better.

We packed up our foot lockers in a pickup truck that Catherine had sent for us and then rode back to Scripture Mission for dinner with Catherine. There we planned our safari at Lake Nakuru and for our final Saturday afternoon festivities before we head back to the States tomorrow night. More to follow tomorrow afternoon if time permits.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thursday evening

We indeed did eat at the Trump's last night, after serving around 385 patients in the clinic. Pastor Preece spent Wednesday in Kisumu visiting a clinic that had been setup by his congregation, Zion Lutheran Church in Dallas. Bishop Bakari was in Kitui on ELCK business, so 2 of our most effective evangelists were doing other good works. Kay had a great experience with a 14 year old girl and her mother.. The daughter had very bad vision and the mother had given up hope that here daughter would ever see and have a normal life. When our distance glasses actually allowed her to read much of the eye chart, the mother was beside herself with joy. A picture of this will most certainly appear online once we return home. We stayed busy right up until we had a brief devotion with our team and the volunteers while it poured cats and dogs outside. We left for the suburb of Karen, where we stay, and were anticipating the usual 35-40 minute ride home. In addition to the rain, there was a bus vs. pedestrian accident not long before we left the church. The ride became an over two and a half hour ordeal that everyone handled with good cheer. After all, we had just been proclaiming the Gospel to all who came to the clinic. We arrived before 8pm at the Trump's and Krista had a wonderful appetizer bar set with sugared nuts, bread and homemade cheese. The rest of the fare last night was also homemade and included Caesar salad, manicotti and bread sticks. This was followed by a homemade chocolate cake topped with strawberry slices served with homemade vanilla ice cream. Did I say everything was homemade? This can be a struggle for Kirsta, since she must oftentimes substitute for items that are in short supply, recently butter and cake flour being only two examples.

I had written up most of what is above while waiting for breakfast early this morning, then disaster struck. While saving my several paragraph long posting, it completely disappeared as my Android tablet locked up. Not good... I hate rewriting something I've already spent a good deal of time on wordsmithing. Especially when I knew I couldn't possibly come close to what I had written during the morning before work. And I'm sure I'm right, since trying to match a sharp early morning mind with efforts made after a long day are doomed to fail.

Our day today was much better, with an easy ride into the clinic. We saw 422 people today, putting us on track for possibly 2,000 patients before the clinic ends at 5pm tomorrow. One of the high points was a woman that came to the clinic that we had referred for cataract surgery last year. Dr. Stephen, one of our local eye doctors, remembered her and made sure she got a thorough exam. While her other eye is not good enough for surgery to be successful, the one that had been repaired was working well. Thank you, Jesus! Our clinic day concluded with a devotion led by Pastor Preece. He worked an evening devotion from the Lutheran Hymnal into a short sermon on what had been accomplished today. Giving light and sight to a world that needs a Savior. He led the Redeemer team in a very nice rendition of the Doxology after our Kenyan friends had serenaded us with a great Swahili song used to celebrate the end of the work day. We really sounded pretty good for zero practice and Pastor Bakari liked it so much he had us do it again. The second time was magical, soft and loud and bold at the right places, with very good Lutheran four part harmony. It had all of the heart and joy that the much different music our Kenyan hosts have gifted us with possesses. I will never forget it. We will lose Pastor Kevin tomorrow evening, as he heads home for Austin to preside over confirmation on Sunday. We still have Saturday to go after he's left and it looks like most of the team will travel to Lake Nakuru to see the wild game park and to stop and enjoy the view from above the Great Rift Valley, either when coming or going from the safari. More to follow as I am able. Praise God for another great day. Amen!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Wednesday morning

5/2/2012 Wednesday morning
We had an incredible day at the clinic, seeing around 425 patients. Since it was the Kenyan Labor Day we were not quite sure what to expect. The day started out a a little slow as the neighborhood obviously was sleeping in. Traffic was light entering the slum, and there were far fewer matatus picking up passengers and only about one in four shops were setting out their wares compared to a normal week day. The morning was therefore a little slow, but we had registered our 200th patient by noon. Things continued at a good pace until the end of the day. We had a strong rain come in while we were doing our end of the day devotion and I got a chance to use a rain poncho for the first time in at least three trips. Veterans of these mission trips will always tell you to pack light and that if you haven't used something in 3 trips in a row, never bring it again. There is one exception to this rule. Rain gear. We did indeed go to the Carnivore, where we were joined by Catherine and her son Eugene. He is twelve and a half and ate us all under the table. Lupe told the wait staff that it was Eugene'a birthday and we had a grand celebration. It was real nice to have an evening to decompress from the work we do during the day. Tonight we will be at Pastor Shauen Trump's residence for dinner at the LCMS compound next to where we stay. We are honored to be able to join him and his family in their home. We expect larger numbers at the clinic today, since this is the pattern we have seen in previous years.

Sorry for the lack of pictures so far, the Internet and power have been big issues. Sometimes, a good power outage is the best thing for our Internet connection since it resets the whole building. At the very worst, I will have the nicest of our pictures out on the blog very soon after we return to Texas. So, stay tuned... Time to head off to work.. Please continue to pray for our effectiveness in spreading the Good News through this human care ministry.